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Gift of Life
By Lynn Miclea
Brooke woke up to the sound of machines beeping, a sound that for some reason was soothing. She was still alive!
Her chest ached. But that was normal for just two days after her heart transplant. It had been agonizing waiting for an appropriate donor, and she was excited when one finally became available. It was her only chance at life.
For two weeks she remained in the hospital, hooked up to tubes, drains, IVs, and monitors. She felt weak and exhausted, and recovery was slow but steady. After following all the nurses’ instructions and doing all the exercises given to her by physical therapy, it was finally time to go home. Although a bit nervous about leaving the safety of the hospital, she couldn’t wait to go back to her own home. And with her husband working from home, it was reassuring to know she would have him there to help her.
The first month home was a vague fog of naps, exhaustion, a few exercises, walking, and a lot of gratitude. Then finally, she began to have more energy and feel better.
“Honey?” Brooke looked at her husband. “I was thinking about this whole experience. I am so grateful to have this new heart — I’m not sure how much longer I would have survived without it. This has really given me a new life.”
Kyle smiled back at her. “It was a long time waiting for it. And I’m so glad you’re still here with me. I was not ready to lose you.”
She nodded. “I’m so glad to still be here. I didn’t know if I would get one in time.” She sighed. “This really changes everything. The young man who donated this heart truly gave me my life back. It’s mind blowing.”
“How are you feeling now?”
“Still weak, but so very happy and grateful.” She thought for a few moments. “You know something? I’d really like to meet the family of the person who donated this heart. Is that possible?”
Kyle sat up straight. “That’s a great idea. I’ll call the hospital and see if it can be arranged.”
“Good, thank you.” She sipped some water. “Hey, you know what I’d really like?”
Kyle’s eyes opened wide with surprise. “What? You’ve never expressed any interest in the violin before. In fact, you’ve never played any instrument.”
Brooke shrugged. “I know. But for some reason, I’ve been thinking about a violin lately. I don’t know why, but it’s been at the back of my mind for a few weeks now. I’d love to get one.”
Kyle stared at her. “Are you serious?”
She nodded. “Yes, I really want one. It’s all I can think about lately. Do you think we can find one?”
He hesitated. “Okay, I’ll look for a used violin. I’m sure I can find one.”
Two weeks later, he walked in the door. “Honey? I have a surprise for you.”
Brooke looked up from where she sat at the kitchen table. “What is it?”
He placed a black case on the table in front of her. “Open it.”
Fingers trembling, she opened the case and her eyes fell on a beautiful violin sitting in a velvet liner inside the case. She sucked in a breath and her eyes opened wide. “It’s beautiful.” She slowly reached for the violin and reverently took it out of the case.
Kyle watched her as she inspected the instrument. “Do you like it?”
“I love it,” she said, her voice subdued. “Thank you.” Her eyes filled with love, she turned the violin in all directions and looked at every inch of it, running her fingers along the smooth surface. “This is magnificent,” she whispered.
She shifted the violin and positioned it under her chin with her left hand just the way she had pictured it in her mind. Smiling, she reached for the bow and held it in her right hand. Slowly placing the bow over the strings, her hand shaking slightly, she drew the bow across the strings. A scratchy sound came out. She chuckled, held the bow more lightly, and tried again. This time, there was a sweet, pure tone. Her face lit up.
Kyle’s mouth dropped open. “That actually sounded good. Where did this interest come from?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know. I just felt a compelling need to do this.” She glided the bow across the strings a few more times, playing a few more notes and eliciting melodic tones. Then she looked at the instrument. “I love this,” she said softly. “I need to take lessons. I have to learn how to play.”
After researching a few local teachers, she chose one and signed up for a few weeks of lessons. Feeling both nervous and excited, she went to her first lesson. Experienced and patient, the teacher covered all the basics, and Brooke took to it quickly, as though playing the violin was second nature. It filled her with an indescribably joy, and she spent hours practicing.
A few weeks later, she received a phone call from a voice she didn’t recognize. “Hi, my name is Marcie. I’m not sure how to say this, but…” The woman paused and took a deep breath before continuing. “I heard you wanted to meet the family of the donor heart you received.”
Brooke sat up at attention. “Yes, yes, thank you.”
“The heart you received is from my son. Would it be okay if I came to see you?”
“Yes, absolutely.” A thrill went through her. “When can you come? I would love to meet you.”
“How is Friday afternoon? I could be there around 2:00 — is that good for you?”
“Yes, Friday is perfect. I look forward to meeting you.”
Brooke made sure the house looked decent, and she baked some cookies on Friday morning. She couldn’t wait to meet the donor’s family member. Part of her felt nervous. Would this woman resent her for having her son’s heart? She at least wanted the chance to thank her and let her see that she had been given a new life because of what her son had done with such an incredibly giving spirit.
In the afternoon, the doorbell rang, and a jolt of anxiety ran through her. She wasn’t sure what to expect. Opening the door, she saw a middle-aged woman with light brown hair.
The woman smiled and held out her hand. “Hi, it’s so nice to meet you.” She hesitated. “My name is Marcie. My son, Will, was the heart donor.”
Brooke shook her hand and then stepped back. “Come in, please. Let’s sit down and talk.” She led the way into the living room where a platter of her freshly baked cookies sat on the coffee table along with a pitcher of water. “Please make yourself comfortable and help yourself to some cookies.”
Marcie gave a weak smile. “Thank you, you are so kind.” She suddenly choked back a sob. “My son was … killed…” She cleared her throat and took a deep breath before she could continue. “He was killed in a car accident. He was only twenty-three years old. You have his heart.” Tears filled her eyes and she quickly looked away and then back at Brooke.
Brooke bit her lower lip. “I’m so sorry for your loss. But from the depths of my heart, I thank you for the gift he gave me. I appreciate it more than you know. You raised a wonderful son, and he gave me my life back.” She looked into Marcie’s eyes. “Would you like to hear his heart beating?”
Marcie gasped and stared at Brooke, and then she nodded. “I’d love to.” Brooke moved closer, and Marcie leaned in, placing her ear on Brooke’s chest. With tears in her eyes, she listened to the sound of her son’s heart beating in this woman’s chest. She finally pulled back and gazed at Brooke. “That’s the most beautiful thing I’ve heard. Thank you for that.”
“Thank you,” Brooke responded. “I wouldn’t be here today if not for the wonderful gift that your son gave me. His heart beats on in me.”
Marcie nodded, tears spilling down her cheeks. “This makes me so happy.”
Brooke sat back. “Please tell me about your son.”
Marcie smiled. “Will was the kindest person I’ve ever known. He would help anyone, and he wanted to make everyone happy.” She thought for a few moments. “And he was a professional musician.”
Brooke’s eyes opened wide. “He was?”
“Oh yes, he played the violin in concerts and at various charitable events. He was really good. The violin meant so much to him. The music he played was straight from the heavens. You could hear the music crying and feel the loving touch of angels. It deeply touched my soul when he played.”
Brooke stared at the woman. “This is too much of a coincidence.”
Marcie looked confused. “What do you mean?”
Brooke glanced at her husband and then back at Marcie. “I’ve never played a musical instrument in my life. And then after receiving your son’s heart, I had such a powerful urge to play the violin.” She heard Marcie gasp. “I’ve taken some lessons. Would you like to hear?”
Marcie nodded, her face pale.
Kyle brought the violin to Brooke, and she positioned the instrument under her chin, reached for the bow, and slowly began to play. After she finished her song, she lowered the violin and looked at Will’s mother.
Marcie’s eyes were wide, her face wet with tears. “Amazing Grace. That was one of Will’s favorite pieces.”
Brooke took a deep breath. “Mine too. I can’t play it enough.”
Marcie stared at her. “But how is this possible? You say you’ve never played before?”
Brooke shook her head. “No, I’ve never played any instrument until I received Will’s heart.” She paused and held Marcie’s gaze. “It’s as though your son is using the violin to speak through me.” She blinked a few times. “And I am deeply humbled and grateful to both of you.”
Marcie broke down in sobs for a few minutes. After she collected herself, she looked up. “Will…” she whispered.
“Yes,” Brooke said softly. “He lives on in me.”
Copyright © 2020 Lynn Miclea. All Rights Reserved.